Not a good decision on ‘rabbit’ season in NY; Del Mar increase in field deserves praise

Not a good decision on ‘rabbit’ season in NY; Del Mar increase in field deserves praise

September 05, 2017 3:09 AM


For decades, owners and trainers have used “rabbits” – horses with common ownership to insure a legit early pace and/or compromise a rival with early speed – in major Stakes races to help the chances of a stablemate.

At Saratoga last Saturday Ron Paolucci’s Looch Racing Stables entry of May B in the $750,000 Grade-I Woodward Stakes was denied by the New York stewards because, according to Stephen Lewandowski, “we feel all horses that enter should be able to win the race.”

Looch Racing’s other entrant, War Story, lacks early speed, and the intent was to keep heavily favored Gun Runner honest early with the hope War Story would get enough pace to set up his run.

If the New York Racing Association had no intention of letting May B run, why did they accept the $750 nomination fee? 

And more important, has it gotten to the point now where the stewards are sharp enough handicappers to know who does and who does not have a chance to win a race? Is that their job?

I think this decision sets a bad precedent. Each and every racing day there are horses entered who basically are in spots where they have no chance. 

Do the stewards now have the power to block them from racing? Should they have that power at all? If so, where were the stewards when Ricks Natural Star was allowed to race in the 1996 Breeders Cup Turf?

For the record, Gun Runner won the Woodward by double digits and may have stamped himself as the one to beat in the Breeders Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar given Arrogate’s struggles at the seaside track.

War Story? He finished a no threat fourth in the Woodward, beaten 13¾ lengths.

As for May B, he ended up running in a mid-level Allowance/Optional claiming sprint earlier on the Saturday Saratoga card when he finished 10th and last, beaten over 25 lengths.

Del Mar a success

Congratulations to Del Mar, which was able to increase field size from 8.1 horses per race in 2016 to 8.4 horses per race going into closing weekend while reducing the number of catastrophic injuries. That number of horses per race is sure to increase given the full fields at Del Mar over the Labor Day weekend.

The result will be a significant increase in handle when all is said and done after Labor Day’s final race has been run. The racing was excellent, the betting opportunities plentiful, and after the long seven month meet at Santa Anita it was a refreshing change for the horses, owners, trainers, and horseplayers alike.

Noteworthy performances this summer include huge meetings from trainers Mark Glatt and Michael McCarthy, the successful return to Del Mar for trainer Tom Proctor and the Glen Hill Farm, and the return to top form of jockey Drayden Van Dyke after suffering a serious arm injury last winter at Santa Anita.

The disappointments of the meet had to be the performance by Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap, the season long slump by the Jerry Hollendorfer stable, the struggles by apprentice Evin Roman on the Del Mar turf, the constant trouble jockey Tyler Baze seemed to find riding the Del Mar turf, and the personal demons that have adversely affected jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. on a regular basis.

Los Al on Thursday

The Los Alamitos Fall Thoroughbred meet kicks off and will race on a Thursday through Sunday basis through Sept. 24.

Highlights include the Barretts Juvenile (Sept. 23) and the Barretts Debutante (Sept. 16) for 2-year-olds, with the Beverly Lewis (3-year-old fillies) and E.B. Johnston Stakes (older horses) both on Sept. 9.

As usual, Los Alamitos looks out for the horseplayers with the 14% takeout Pick Five each racing day. And for tournament players, Los Al will conduct National Handicapping Championship qualifying contests on Sept. 16 and 23.

I have stated previously that as a SoCal horseplayer it is important to support the businesses that support our industry. Dr. Ed Allred of Los Alamitos stepped up and built additional barns to house Thoroughbreds when Fairplex Park closed, and he expanded the main track to one mile to handle increased Thoroughbred racing when Hollywood Park ceased to operate. He deserves our support at the wagering windows and as owners in the entry box.

After the solid field sizes during the Del Mar meet, let’s hope the horsemen continue to enter early and often to give us horseplayers plenty of interesting wagering opportunities during the three-week meet.

Top Play

With entries for the Los Alamitos opening not being taken until Labor Day, let’s go on the road with a play at Kentucky Downs on Wednesday in Race 3 – Galton (post 5). The Mike Maker trainee is proven over the undulating course, had a perfect prep at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 5, and can handle turf less than firm, which is important since rain is possible.